Google+ Authentic Parenting: Silly Remarks On Breastfeeding Older Children

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Silly Remarks On Breastfeeding Older Children

When you're breastfeeding beyond a certain age mark (which is variable depending on the person you're talking to), you're bound to end up with some brow-frowning questions and remarks, ranging from silly, to stupid, to radically deranged. I gathered them here, so we all could have a laugh at them, and then sigh at the backwardness of society.


Image: Alexander Tundakov on Flickr

  1. You are forcing that child to nurse
  2. You are only doing it for your own pleasure
  3. People who nurse beyond "insert completely trivial age limit here" are perverts
  4. Should you still be doing that?
  5. Are you doing that to maintain the size of your breasts?
  6. When are you going to give that child real food/solids?
  7. When will you be weaning?
  8. She'll never stop if you don't wean her
  9. She'll still be nursing when she's seven
  10. How is he going to eat cereal?
  11. When will you be giving him real milk?
  12. Are you still breastfeeding that child? (while you are breastfeeding)
  13. Your milk doesn't contain any nutrients beyond "insert completely trivial age limit here"
  14. That will make him confused about his sexuality
  15. Once they can ask for it, they're too big for it
  16. That's really abnormal
  17. That's sick
  18. If you continue breastfeeding, it's going to become pathological

Thanks to everyone on Twitter and on Facebook for helping me put together this list.



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57 comments:

  1. Some of mine were "what if she's still nursing at three" *shock & shudder* and "she looks too old to be doing THAT!" There is an abundance of ignorance out there!

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  2. Oh dear. Some of those are ridiculous. What really upset me is that I wanted to start donating breastmilk to the milkbank when my daughter turned six months - and they said no thanks, since the milk is no longer nutritious. So I went to another milk bank, also in London. And they said the same. The milk bank here in Africa takes my milk though. They say ANY breastmilk is better than formula, especially for HIV positive babies.

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  3. "You shouldn't nurse past *dumb number* because after three they can REMEMBER it".

    So...a child remembering cuddling and being loved at their mother's breast is a bad thing? No wonder our youth is so apathetic!

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  4. I had to laugh at #17! My sister said that to me when I was breastfeeding my 3 month old!

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  5. My baby will be 1 in February and guess what? I'm already getting remarks about how "it's time to stop that now!" about breastfeeding AND co-sleeping. very funny how people seem to think how you raise your kids is their business.

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  6. I get ... They'll still be breastfeeding at 21 !!! or if they have teeth they should not be on the boob ....

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  7. LOL. If I had a dollar for each time I have heard one of those...

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  8. I hafta say, I nursed both of my children to a year and a half and plan to do the same for the one on the way...but I'm on board with the people that say breastfeeding a child past the age of three does seem a bit, ummmm, extreme. I'm not quite sure why a child that can eat a full meal by themselves (obviously gaining all the needed nutrients from that food)needs to breastfeed at all. I think at that point it really does become all about the comfort it brings to both mother and child, which is just fine if you're needing that. But personally, by the end of a year, my body and breasts just ached to be my own again.

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    1. After a certain age it becomes more about comfort and antibodies then about nutrience. Therefore it is still neccessary. ;)

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  9. Haha,Just Jocasta! My son IS still nursing at 3! THE HORROR! ;)

    I've had mostly postive comments. I'm lucky to have a supportive family and am surrounded by freinds to whom nursing past infancy is the norm. I think once we hit the one year mark people started asking me when I'd wean my son. At first my answer was "For at least 2 years, as is the W.H.O. rec." Somewhere along the line I decided that child lead weaning seemed like the right choice for our family.

    I've had people say that my son will "remember" being breastfed like that'd somehow scar him. I'm sure he'll remember being nursed as a positive experience. Anyway, it's not like he won't see me nursing any future siblings he has and he often sees my mommy friends/family members nursing their children. He'll grow up knowing that breasts feed children, and I think that's a good thing.

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  10. @ Brenda: They can remember it? Wow, that's really dense! which actully makes that people think it's something so disgusting it's better children do not know about it??

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  11. I stupidly weaned my first child at 2yrs. It was a horrible thing to do, he wasn't ready and there way too many tears and hurt feelings. My second child self weaned at 5yr 3mos. Very few people realize that nursing changes as the child gets older. The last few years my daughter was nursing around a minute for each latch on, mostly at night as she was falling asleep. The idea that I would wean a child who was asking for less than 5min a day of attention sounded cruel to me.

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  12. "when they get teeth its time to stop"

    there is honestly NO logic behind this one.

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  13. @ Brenda and Mamapoekie, the remembering thing is because breasts are seen as sexual. So people wouldn't want a child to remember having suckle at her mother's sexual organ... So the problem is that milk comes from breasts. It would be so much easier if milk was coming from our little fingers. Pff.

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  14. Yup, heard 'em all. Ridiculous. Pretty much any prescriptive age number as dictated to other people is arbitrary. I am glad as my children grew I began to see this, and that I nursed for as long as the kids and I wanted to.

    I nursed my kids until age 3 and 2 resp. Only positive experiences. Kids are 8 and 6 now and think of nursing as awesome, and women's bodies as incredible.

    I'm pretty sure I've shared this link before, but it's a great read for anyone wanting a more child- and woman-friendly cultural perspective: Breastfeeding in the Land of Ghenghis Khan".

    Thanks for compiling these!

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  15. I have read the article before... it's great isn't it. Thanks for your comment, Kelly

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  16. I think it's probably worth making sure you've considered the social impact of being picked on by peers once the child is in regular school, that's about my limit on having views on other people breast feeding their kids beyond the initial stages :)

    as for nutrients - surely that's more dependent on the mothers diet than anything else?

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  17. @Anonymous, that's indeed a consideration worth making. However, my child is unschooled and many of the children in this community are home- or unschooled.
    Moreover, once a child reaches school age, they're probably not nursing so much any more, so often other people don't even know.

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  18. @Anonymous
    As mamapoekie pointed out, not all children go to school. Mine don't. :-) Also, I've never seen kids discussing their nursing habits - ever - and most older nurslings nurse a time or two a day, not 'round the clock like babies. Echoing what mamapoekie has said, I've known many a toddler nursling and other people were none the wiser, not necessarily from deliberate hiding on the part of the family either.

    Not to mention, making lifestyle changes according to the potential ignorant comments of bullies or those with regressive attitudes isn't something every parent and child is interested in. Ask my son who wore skirts to his playschool and around town and had no problem defending his sartorial choices to his friends or grownups, always with a smile on his face.

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  19. Kelly, I am now officially a fan of your son!

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  20. I laughed at number 5. Not heard that one but if I had I'd have laughed outright at them! I love this list, also had a chuckle at #6. It seems mind boggling that people think that children who are breastfed are SOLEY on breastmilk, and not eating anything else at all!

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  21. I want in Kelly's son fan club !
    (and I like Kelly's post. Just what I was thinking, perfectly worded !)

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  22. I agree, people are ridiculous and should mind their own business unless they're willing to be educated on the matter. I have a question. My son is almost 3 and he now has 'milk teeth' from night nursing. The dentist won't see him until he turns 3. I had them when I was a child as well. Has anyone else had this happen? If so, what did you do about it?

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    1. Naomi saw the dentist for the first time at 1 year. He warned that breastmilk CAN cause cavities (it does have good, healthy sugar). We've been brushing her teeth since she got them, and we haven't had any issues. I'd advise seeing another dentist. She's gone twice so far and she's not even 2.

      Do know, though, that to fix his teeth at this point would likely require sedation. I worked in an OR that would do that kind of dental work. See someone else about what your options might be.

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  23. do you mean he has caries in his teeth? I though breastmilk didn't do that and actually protected from caries. I took Globetrotter to the dentist for the first time when she was one... strange

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  24. @ Anon. . . your question regarding nutrients in mothers milk being dependent upon what a mother eats is a good one. However, not a good reason for a mom to actively wean a child instead of allowing her child to naturally wean from the breast. Mother's milk is nutritionally the same for a mother eating organic salads and a mother eating fast food, or even a mother only having enough to eat to survive. It's the mom that suffers as a result of a poor diet - not the child nursing. Our milk factories pull the nutrients they need, and go from there. If mom is left without enough nutrients for herself, lactation-wise it can cause poor supply, because mom doesn't have enough energy to produce enough, but it won't alter the nutritional value of the milk that IS produced.

    Flavors, however, DO pass through milk. So a breastfeeding child whose mother has a balanced diet has better potential starting out with solid foods to eat a balanced diet than one who has never tasted spices and fruits and vegetables, etc through her mom's milk. Same for a formula fed child. He won't get the boost to prefer foods that his mother has eaten while breastfeeding.

    Now, about AGE - Because our modern society is so screwed up with regards to breastfeeding, we need to look back at NATURAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT in order to see what's really "normal" when is comes to weaning from the breast. According to the scientific studies conducted by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD, "The minimum predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7.0 years."

    This is scientific FACT - not coming from us "weirdo" mothers "wanting to nurse for comfort" or "forcing children to nurse" as many think. This is scientific research. Link: http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

    It is developmentally (emotionally and physiologically) a VERY good thing to allow for child led weaning. As a child grows, the nursing relationship changes - 6 year olds who nurse may only nurse once every few days, or maybe one specific time of day each day - for seconds at a time. It's not weird. It's good. Science keeps reminding us that natural is GOOD, not weird. We just have to listen - and perpetuate a good vibe for child led weaning as a healthful, nurturing fact of life instead of a "perverted" pastime that is outdated. If it's not for you, it's not for you. But for those families who "do" weaning the natural, developmentally friendly way . . . the only reason they are looked at as "weird" is because our society is backwards about what boobs are for - and entirely way too focused on sexuality, instead of focused on what's good for us and our future generations.

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  25. My oldest nursed until she was 2 yrs. and 2 months old. My middle child had GERD so severe that I stopped producing enough milk for her around 4 or 5 months old because she didn't nurse often/long enough to sustain the supply. I was devastated, since I'd had such a wonderful nursing relationship with my oldest. I was able to nurse on a limited basis after re-establishing my supply but it wasn't the same and she weaned herself by 18 months. My youngest weaned himself just past 1 year - I didn't want to do it but he refused to latch anymore and bit me when I could get him to latch. He's almost 2 and often I see him drinking from his sippy cup and lying down and he has a look on his face that makes me think "He wants to nurse. He weaned too soon." I miss the snuggle time I had with him and wish I'd had the extended nursing relationship that I had with my oldest. People who don't support extended nursing don't support natural family living and child spacing. This makes me wonder what exactly those people think the mother-child relationship is or should be.

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  26. "...but I'm on board with the people that say breastfeeding a child past the age of three does seem a bit, ummmm, extreme.
    [...]
    But personally, by the end of a year, my body and breasts just ached to be my own again."

    The last line says it all. The opinion that three is too 'extreme' stems from your own feelings of having had enough of breastfeeding after a year of it. Not everyone feels that ways.

    "I'm not quite sure why a child that can eat a full meal by themselves (obviously gaining all the needed nutrients from that food)needs to breastfeed at all."
    Toddlers who are eating meals often have a blanket or paci or favourite toy for comfort. That is not discouraged.
    A child could *live* of ready-made pizzas and oven chips. Does that mean they do not 'need' fruit or vegetables? A child can live off food and water, but they will thrive from breastmilk. It contains much needed nutrients, as well as protein, energy, and antibodies. Perhaps most nutrients can be obtained from fruit, veg, and animals such as eggs, and fish etc, but the antibodies cannot.
    What about if a child is a 'fussy' eater? You might not be able to get him to eat his greens, but at least breastmilk will provide him with some of the iron and other vitamins he is not getting from food.

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    1. I could never see the benefit from weaning my daughter (20 months) and then buying Pediasure to make sure she was getting the proper nutrition. She's a picky toddler. Nursing helps me rest easy that she's getting what she needs.

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  27. "I think it's probably worth making sure you've considered the social impact of being picked on by peers once the child is in regular school, that's about my limit on having views on other people breast feeding their kids beyond the initial stages :) "

    Is this number 19 on the list? Because it should be.
    No 4 or 5yr old is going to go "Oh, I still breastfeed!" And even if they did, who says they would get picked on for it?
    I wonder if the 4yr old kids I've seen leaving nursery with a blankey or dummy[paci] get picked on?
    I doubt it.

    For the record, my 4yr old will most probably be Home Educated, so I suppose it is not an issue for us.

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    1. And if the child was to be picked on for mentioning the fact that he "still" breast feeds.....I think,shame on the parents of that child and on society for teaching a preschool child to pick on or tease another child...and especially for something that is natural. No one should be picked on but if anything it should be the poor little sod that had to survive on crap from birth....

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  28. @Rebekah - according to a study published by the journal "Pediatrics" breast milk is not directly linked to childhood caries the way that dentists will tell you. I wrote a blog post about this that you might find interesting. You can find it here:

    http://mommymadebyjen.blogspot.com/2010/05/miss-information-or-false-equation-of.html

    In a nutshell, however, if breast milk was a direct link to cavities, children in 3rd world countries - particularly those with high rates of extended breastfeeding - would have terrible teeth. They don't. Cavities in children are more likely to be caused by solid foods than breast milk and by genetic factors such as having weak enamel. Additionally, there is a direct link between the dental health of the mother while the child was in utero to the child's own dental health later in life. So if a person is not good at remembering to brush her teeth while she's pregnant, her baby is more likely to have dental problems in the future. Not saying this is your issue but it's one of the many reasons out there.

    All that said, if your son falls asleep while nursing (like my oldest did) and the breast milk pools in his mouth, then there is a greater risk of cavities developing. But the risk would probably be the same as if you put him to bed with a sippy cup of watered down juice.

    Finally - and I always say this to dental pros who are anti-nursing - baby teeth fall out. They'll tell you that the care of baby teeth can have an effect on the development on the adult teeth and while this is true, nursing at night isn't going to hurt those teeth if you're performing proper dental hygiene. Seriously.

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    1. I wish I would have read this before I replied! I know there is lactose in breastmilk and assumed it could lead to cavities. We brush our daughter's teeth before bed and haven't had issues. But, she's seen the dentist twice already. I've never heard of a dentist waiting until the child is 3!

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  29. Thank you Jen, that's what I though to be true, but I had yet to find some research to back it up

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  30. Hahahaha "Are you doing that to maintain the size of your breasts?" lol, yeah, that's it.
    And 'real milk' um hellooo, this is *real* milk.

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  31. I am so happy I found you tonight, when I should be sleeping, lol. Seriously though I have heard all of those when I was nursing my kiddos. My favorite though was there is no real nutritional value in it after a year. My answer was oh really and where did you get THAT information. Because the studies I read said .... and the World Health Organization and The Catholic Church both recommend nursing a child for 2 years. Keep up the great work.

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  32. Thank you, Granola Catholic! Hope you like what you find here!

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  33. I've never gotten the whole real milk thing, since hello COW milk is better for humans how? But I will admit I was one of those "if he can ask for it that's too old" type of person BEFORE I had and breastfed my son. Of course I only made it to 6 months before coxsackies dried me up (yes I get childhood diseases as an adult, no clue why). This time I was hoping to exclusive breastfeed but of course the NICU stay ruined that and I'm fighting to do half and half right now.

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  34. What disgusts people about breastfeeding past a certain age is the fact that they are sucking from a boob. It looks wrong. I feel so disgusted even seeing a baby suck from a tit. They look like fat little blobs. If mothers want to continue giving their little blobs breastmilk why not express it? What's so wrong about that. It teaches a child independence. I understand not using cow's milk because it is meant for calfs and not humans but even wild animals do not let their babies self wean. It is not natural to self wean. I have seen so many animals nip at their young ones because they are weaning them. Humans are animals also why not wean a baby. If they can not remember breastfeeding, then they will not remember being weaned. It does look sick to breastfeed and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I'm all for breastmilk only if it is expressed. It will put the child through less stress because they will not have to go through the weaning process and it will not cause that constant nagging of a child pulling the mothers shirt because they want milk. I feel so disgusted even thinking of breastfeeding. There are other ways to bond with a baby. Breastfeeding is not the only way. There is hugging, kissing, cuddling, and even bottle-feeding. There is skin to skin contact in hugging, cuddling, and kissing. A LOT of it. I despise women who breastfeed and I am glad there are many people who look down on breastfeeding after age 1.

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    1. Thank you for the great laugh....awesome !!! Now I know what an idiot you are. You were probably bottle fed too by the sounds of things.

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  35. WOW...@ Anonymous It looks sick to breastfeed?????
    Have you ever tried to sit there and express a bottle/cup full of breast milk?!?!?! It's not like turning on the tap in the kitchen. It takes much work, time and preparation. If we were not suppose to breastfeed our, (tit's) as you called them, would be made with little faucets we could turn on and off as needed. There is a correct way a baby it to suckle at the breast and a breast pump or hand can not completely drain the breast so as to get all the nutrients out. God made babies with the need to nurse at the breast at birth for a reason. If you hate breatfeeding so much then all you have to do is look away or leave the area. If you think we should go to the bathroom to feed our babies then you take your food to the bathroom and eat there yourself!

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    1. That idiot would just say you should give formula...or shit in a can,whichever name you prefer. Don't know why you bothered with an explanation....the poster is clearly more than a little bit...ummm,...troubled!!!!

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  36. Thanks for this...I did lots of eye rolling to this one and lots of giggles.

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  37. The only thing that teaches a child independence.. well at least the confident type of independence and not the survive on your own kind is being there for them when they need you to be. Breastfeeding a child on demand no matter how old they are is a part of that being there for them. No child will happily nurse if it doesn't want to. It only looks gross because somewhere along the line society forgot what was important and tried to improve something that didn't need to be improved and then woman became to society, only for pleasure. There's a sacred innocence to breastfeeding grow up and keep it that way.

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  38. I already have people asking me at 4 months if I am "going to breastfeed her for the full year" um yes and even longer!

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  39. My Grandpa could remember getting a magazine for his mom and sitting down for a good breastfeeding. One of the best people ever to walk on the Earth. Children only need a small amount of milk once they are older anyways since they mostly eat meals and snacks. Giving them a few cups of breastmilk a day rather than cows milk is not really anything to freak out about. When cows reach a certain age we don't say, "Whoa whoa whoa!!!!! Time to switch to human milk!!!"

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  40. Older children don't need as much milk a day as infants anyways since they start eating meals and snacks and such. Giving them a few cups of breastmilk rather than cows milk isn't really something to OMG over. When baby cows reach a certain age we don't say, "Whoa whoa whoa! Hold on now! It's time to switch you to human milk!"

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  41. I exclusively breast fed my first two children until they were both a bit over 1 and then 2 years old. I only stopped because they both seemed to just lose interest and weaned naturally. With my 3rd I was forced to switch to formula at 6 weeks and I was devastated. I literally cried and cried everytime she was uncomfortable or needed comfort because I wanted to be able to do that for her myself because she couldn't.

    I have absolutely no issue with people nursing or how long they decide to, it's their child and their body. However if we want to be 100% honest there are a % of women who choose to do extended nursing for them,more then the child. I'm not talking about a 3yr old but more like 4-7. If a child is only nursing for a mere few minutes every few days or a few at night to go to sleep, it is more about comfort then anything else. They aren't nursing out of hunger and if it's for nutrients they do need more then 5 minutes to make it count. Natural weaning is a wonderful & unstressful thing, but why do most older children choose to wean? USUALLY because they are realizing other children their age aren't doing what they are, and or, they've been able to put themselves at ease without any help.

    There is nothing wrong with a child having a pacifier to help them sleep or to comfort them, but we don't usually see 6yr olds walking around with them. Most people want to encourage their children as they get older to comfort themselves without needing one. Is that wrong? No! It is actually very good for the child to be able to sleep on their own. It builds a childs sense of security and self esteem to self comfort and to be able to go to sleep themselves.

    Nursing is nothing but natural and is exactly what nature designed us to do, provide food and nutrients for our little ones. That being said, I don't know if we are meant to continue to feed them at ages of 4,5,6 or 7. If we are, we are one of the only animals that are meant to. Most provide milk for their young ones until they are able to find their food themselves. The process of weaning their young is to build confidence and independence.

    I'm not saying that what you choose to do with your child is wrong at all. If any of your children were my patients I would NEVER try to deter you from doing what you feel is best for your child. I would however ask you to take a look at why your reason. Does the thought of not having that bonding experience anymore pain you? Is it because you don't want to see your child cry to nurse? There is nothing wrong with either of those reasons! You do have to think about if allowing your child to decide that they still want to nurse at an older age is because they have a sense of insecurity or because they purely enjoy the process.Or if it's because you choose to for yourself and you know your child doesn't have a huge interest in it anymore,and would easily be weaned if it wasn't offered. If yes, I would want you to look at reconsidering your decision.

    There is nothing better for our babies then breast feeding and the bonding experience we go through with them by doing it. I am a pediatrician that recommends all my new moms nurse! I have no issue with co sleeping and have done it myself with all 3 of mine,and still am with my youngest being 3 months. I believe it's extremely important to have a close and loving family and to nurture our children with extreme tenderness and love. I also believe in teaching a child a sense of SELF security and I don't think that comes from allowing a child to use nursing as a form of comfort at an older age. Even children who use a toy or blanket are being independent from another person. Studies have shown that 62% of children who experienced extended nursing above 3 are 3 times as likely to develop co-dependent relationships as adults. That is a scientific finding as well.

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  42. I think it might be a really good thing if children remembered being breast fed. Maybe there would be less of a fixation on breasts in the adult world if people could remember using them for their original function.

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  43. That study about codependent adults ... would love to see a source for that. I have never ever heard that before.

    Isn't it interesting how we seem to think it's okay for a child to be comforted by a blanket or toy, but not by a person? The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world ... but no one rocks cradles anymore when there are electric swings. So a whole generation is growing up that has had attachments to THINGS rather than people. Look how that's turning out for us!

    I weaned my son at 19 months for various reasons ... I think I might like to go longer with my current baby.

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  44. I was telling my mother in law about how i had recieved my first rude comment (about teeth) and she said "oh its not like his walking"

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  45. Saggy boobs and mom issues ...gross

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  46. I enjoyed this article a lot! :) I only nursed my oldest until she was 15 months old (I was pregnant and my supply ran out so she wasn't interested), but plan on extended nursing with my son. We're actually postponing a baby purposely for that reason. Especially since he has food allergies and needs the extra nutrition since his safe foods are limited right now. It's not always just about comfort/antibodies after a certain age. Sometimes the amazing nutrition in milk is really necessary for baby.

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  47. I think #1 is hilarious. How exactly does one FORCE a child to nurse? ESPECIALLY one who is no longer a tiny infant. My second daughter was weaned before either of us was really ready, because she was so a "get-up-and-go" type, and so *not* a cuddler, that I couldn't get her to nurse long enough at a sitting for my milk to not dry up.

    (And I bet most of the people saying if they can ask for it they're too old don't realize that surprisingly young infants actually CAN ask for it if sign language is used in the home at all. ;) )

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  48. So 62% of children in more traditional countries grow up to be codependent? I don't buy it. But nursing to around or so is pretty normal in many countries around the world and many cultures throughout history.

    And people used to be far BETTER-adjusted, as a generality, than we are now.

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